Decision to vaccinate British cattle leading to debate about ethical treatment of animals

A government announcement this week stoked debate about a controversial livestock vaccination policy. Vaccination among beef cattle in England has become a major topic of conversation in response to a high rate of infection with BSE.

The government initially ruled out vaccinating the herd in an effort to protect the declining herd. The decision was deemed unnecessary because the high BSE levels were from one infected herd, and the risk from the rest of the herd was minimal.

In January, figures showed a significant decline in BSE for the first time in 10 years, but the rates of BSE remain at historically high levels.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who previously said it was too early to vaccinate the herd, backed a policy change this week. On Tuesday, she announced that a review group is looking at whether a BSE vaccine could be used to protect the population. A strong case for the use of the vaccine has emerged from science advisers, but some scientists argue against vaccinating the entire herd.

The high levels of BSE infection among livestock is directly related to the high level of consumption of cattle and food in the country.

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